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AT&T paid by CIA for phone data

Thursday - 11/7/2013, 8:45am  ET

WASHINGTON - No subpoena - no problem. America's largest wireless communications provider is giving call data information to the government voluntarily.

AT&T is being paid $10 million a year by the CIA for records of phone calls placed on its vast network overseas, even if one end of a conversation happens in the U.S., The New York Times reports.

Government sources tell the Times the relationship to assist with overseas counterterrorism investigations began at some point prior to 2010 and congressional intelligence committees are aware of it.

The program is an indication that agencies, other than the National Security Agency, have relationships with the providers and voluntarily offer the government the information.

The CIA isn't supposed to operate inside the U.S. but it receives metadata, logs of the date, duration and phone numbers involved in a call, on both ends of a conversation utilizing the AT&T overseas network even if one caller is in America.

Officials tell the Times government lawyers deem that legal because the identification of the U.S.-based caller is not provided and a portion of the phone number is masked.

If it's determined more information is needed on the U.S.-based caller, an administrative subpoena requires the phone company to provide the information to the FBI for that agency to pursue.

In the case of AT&T, European regulators are voiding to carefully scrutinize any deal AT&T makes to buy Vodafone, a European cellphone provider.

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